Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The character of the English and the Gascons

Book III, ch. 21. Foreign countries may well wonder at the noble realm of France, how finely it is situated, and what numbers of cities, towns, and castles it possesses, as well in the distant parts as in the heart of the country. There are in travelling from Toulouse to Bordeaux, the underneath rich towns, situated on the Garonne, called Gironde at Bordeaux: Grenade, Verdun, St. Nicholas, Auvillas, Valence, Leirac, Agen, Porte St. Marie, Aguillon, Tonneins, Marmande, St. Basile, la Réole, St. Macaire, Langon, Cadillac, Rions, Castres. Then ascending the Dordogne, which falls into the Garonne, are the following castles:  St. André, Libourne, Castillon, St. Foy, Bergerac, la Linde, Limeul, St. Cyprian, Dommes, Soulliac.

Some of these being English and others French, carried on a war against each other: they would have it so; for the Gaseous were never, for thirty years running, steadily attached to any one lord. True it is, that the whole of Gascony submitted to king Edward and to his son the prince of Wales, but the country afterwards, as has been clearly shown in this history, revolted from those English masters. King Charles, son to king John of France, gained by his wisdom, prudence, kind treatment, and great gifts, the affections of their principal barons, such as the count d'Armagnac, the lord d'Albreth, and others, whom the prince of Wales lost through his pride.

I, the author of this history, was at Bordeaux when the prince of Wales marched to Spain, and witnessed the great haughtiness of the English, who are affable to no other nation than their own; nor could any of the gentlemen of Gascony or Aquitaine, though they had ruined themselves by their wars, obtain office or appointment in their own country; for the English said they were neither on a level with them nor worthy of their society, which made the Gascons very indignant, as they showed on the first opportunity that presented itself. It was on account of the harshness of the prince's manners that the count d'Armagnac and the lord d'Albreth, with other knights and squires, turned to the French interest. King Philip of France, and the good John his son, had lost Gascony by their overbearing pride; and in like manner did the prince. But king Charles, of happy memory, regained them by good humour, liberality, and humility. In this manner the Gaseous love to be governed. King Charles, the more firmly to strengthen the connection, married his sister, the lady Isabella de Bourbon, to the lord d'Albreth; by whom he had two fine children, which causes love to endure the longer.

True it is, that when I lived among these lords at Paris, I once heard the lord d'Albreth use an expression that I noted down. I believe it may have been said in joke: however, it contained, in my opinion, much truth and good sense. A knight from Brittany, who had borne arms for him, inquired after his health, and how he managed to remain steady to the French : when he thus answered,"Thank God, my health is very good; but I had more money at command, as well as my people, when I made war for the king of England, than I have now: for, whenever we took any excursions in search of adventures, we never failed meeting some rich merchants from Toulouse, Condom, la Réole, or Bergerac, whom we squeezed, which made us gay and debonair, but now all that is at an end."

The knight, on hearing this, burst into laughter and replied, " In truth, that is the life Gascons love : they willingly hurt their neighbour."

On hearing this, I concluded that the lord d'Albreth heartily repented his having turned to the French, in the same manner as the lord de Mucident, who, when made prisoner at Yurac, swore to the duke of Anjou, he would set out for Paris and become ever after a good Frenchman.  He did go to Paris. where the king handsomely received him ; but he was not treated to his satisfaction, so that he slunk away from the king, and left Paris without taking leave, to return to his own country, where he again became an Englishman, and broke all his engagements with the duke of Anjou. The lords de Rosem, de Duras, de Langurant, did the same.

 Such are the Gascons: they are very unsteady, but they love the English in preference to the French, for the war against France is the most profitable; and this is the cause of their preference.
 

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